The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, has called on all Nigerians to disseminate information responsibly to curb the menace of hate speech, fake news and its resultant effects.
He made the call at a Colloquium with the theme: “Fake News and Hate Speech,” held at the National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja on Tuesday.
Kukah, a lead discussant at the Colloquium, described fake news “as multi-layers of conversations which are feeding off of our already existing prejudices”, urging every Nigerian to become information gate keepers.
While describing some sociological reasons for the prevalence of hate speech and fake news in the society, Kukah said misinformation topped all.
He said: “People in a society live by comparing their conditions with those of others.
“When they perceive that others are benefiting better than them, the assumption is that they are worse off, thereby, setting the society on an endless antagonism.
“In a state of war, war strategists actually say that disinformation is a legitimate tool of war.”
Kukah advised the public, particularly media practitioners, to avoid any reportage that “distracts” and misleads the society.
He said: “These are not easy times we are in; there are information out there with intent to distract but we must be more discerning.
“We can banish hate speech by presenting the ordinary citizens with an alternative narrative.”
The Keynote Speaker, Ray Epku, Chief Executive of Newswatch Now, said some key ingredients that fuel hate speech are religion, politics and ethnicity.
Ekpu said: “Online media has provided relevance to the Office of the Citizen.
“Social conversations done by millions worldwide on the internet, especially on volatile subjects, can lead to social fragmentation and centrifrugalism.
“It is obvious that fake news published either by digital or mainstream media can lead to hate speech; hate speech can lead to violence or discrimination and hostility.”
Prof. Abdallah Adamu, Vice Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria, said the choice of the crop of speakers for the event was deliberate as most of them where “idols in the industry”.
Adamu said the symposium, the first of its kind, was to groom the university students, about 536,000 in number, 95 per cent of them youths, to become responsible citizens.
NAN reports that other discussants at the event were Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, Dr. Reuben Abati, Funke Egbemode, Senator Chris Anyanwu and Mallam Mahmud Jega.